Friday Things: The Bowl of Cherries Edition

Goodness gracious things have been busy around here. The wrapping up of the garden renovation, wedding and travel planning, some local travel writing for the San Francisco Chronicle and a few speaking opportunities have kept me on the go, go, go.  I’d like to take a break and tell you all about it but that won’t be possible for a few more weeks.  Two of our kids are graduating from college/grad school on the east coast and our son is getting married in Utah a couple of weeks later followed by a wedding shindig here at our new home (and in our new garden!)  It’s that time of year and that time of life.  So please, excuse my sporadic posts, enjoy some cherries, and let’s meet back here in July. Deal?

In the meantime, some things to consider:

Natural materials yoga props.

Do I really need to learn to Snapchat?

Supersized diamonds.

Supersize = No Big Deal.

Passwords – “like a tatoo. . intimate, compact and expressive.”

Toasted Marshmallow Milkshakes.

Don Draper wrote that Coke ad after all.

And Tina Fey strips down to her lady contraptions as a send-off for David Letterman.

Happy Memorial Day Weekend All!

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Bird Watching


The poet Nikki Giovanni once said that she spent a lot of time learning about bird watching.  Placing these birdbath basalt rocks in my new garden has made me want to do the same. We’ve created our own little aviary hammam out front and when I’m around I try to sit very still so I don’t frighten the winged skinny-dippers away.  Just wish I knew their names.  I’d like to be a better hostess. Any suggestions for beginner bird watching guides?

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San Francisco Decorator Showcase 2015

If this year’s San Francisco Decorator Showcase is any indicator, color is making a comeback.  The hushed neutrals of the past have been replaced by sumptuous hues and bold graphics that feel fresh and invigorating.  For example, in Cecilie Starin’s black and white dining room the abstract murals by San Francisco street muralist Ian Ross along with inventive art pieces (see above) made from street artists’ spray paint cans embrace the unconventional.

Which is only fitting since this is a home that celebrates a famed woman architect’s progressive vision. Julia Morgan designed the house in 1917 for “Dried Fruit King” Abraham Rosenberg and his wife Alice specifying an unusual choice of material–concrete–for the Tudor style home. You can see some of Morgan’s own quotes lining the entrance stairway designed by Candace Barnes.

Upstairs on the press preview day, designer Will Wick hung one last piece of art on the moss green walls of his elegant master bedroom. The soothing but sophisticated wall color combined with cream accents sets off the art beautifully.

Next door, designer Tineke Triggs paired an emerald green chaise with graphic tile and Keith Haring-like art.  When pressed Triggs revealed that the large photo of the cat-eyed woman–inspired by a Vogue magazine cover from the 70s–was Triggs herself!

Adjacent dressing rooms feature neutral backdrops with subtle swaths of color. Hers is a soft cocoon of pastels while His features edgier grays and blacks.

Teen boy’s gear references the colors in the custom bed coverings made from fabric designed by Jean Paul Gautier and discovered in France by fabricator Susan Chastain.  Decorative painter Willem Racke’s lacquered ombre’ finish on the walls was inspired by rock striations along the California coast.

Two upper rooms showcase whimsical wallpaper.  The laundry room features bright butterflies on the walls and custom drying racks above the washer/dryer.

A smoochy wallpaper covers the walls in the upstairs bath and seals the whole showcase with a kiss.

The lip colors recall the palette of the glam living room by Philip Silver Design.

As well as the merlot colored walls of the game room. “We decided to embrace Pantone’s controversial color of the year,” says designer Jeff Schlarb. “It’s actually quite lovely to watch it change throughout the day.”

If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, plan to tour this beautiful showcase house before it closes on May 25, Memorial Day.  Details can be found at

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Digging Life

My friend Jana says putting in a new garden is like giving birth.  Painful and messy at the time but you quickly forget all that once your new pride and joy has arrived.  This has been an intense mother of a week with soil, rock and plant deliveries arriving almost daily and several professional crews on site to place and plant the new arrivals. More about that soon, along with my report on this year’s San Francisco Decorator Showcase. In the meantime, have a good weekend all!

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Friday Things: The Good Fences Edition

The garden project continues in full swing.  So full that I’ve hardly looked at anything this week that didn’t have petals or leaves. Except maybe the dirt surrounding our house–specifically, the dirt that surrounds my house vs. the dirt that surrounds my neighbors’ house.

Our property is bordered on three sides by open space owned by the utility company.  The other side includes a raised berm that runs between our driveway and the home of some sweet elderly neighbors who have lived there for thirty years.  When selecting plants for the garden, we discussed the general plan for the space on our side of the shared berm. Our intention was to add more deer-resistant plants like the rhododendrons that line their side of the berm. (Our side consisted of bare dirt and an overgrown phormium on its last stick-like legs.) The neighbors agreed to the plan but then I inadvertently (truly) deviated from it by purchasing an especially pretty red maple while shopping for the back yard plants and planted it on what I thought was our side of the property line. That red maple has turned into one especially pretty red flag.

The neighbors had some concerns. (Again, have I mentioned they’re lovely people?) They thought the tree might be on their property and weren’t interested in maintaining it long term–even if their long term isn’t so long.  I understood where they were coming from but thought that I’d planted it on our side and furthermore fully intend to care for it. We consulted the parcel map but it was hard to determine where the line fell.  The property is oddly shaped with a triangular bit that extends over towards the neighbors’ house.  All well and good if you know where any point of the triangle exists, but just by looking at the map it’s hard to make that out. Using a VERY long tape measurer and measuring from the back (we think) of our property, M.J. laid out a possible borderline but things were iffy enough that both sides agreed it was best to hire a surveyor to settle the matter.

In the meantime we rebuilt the shabby little plywood fence at the edge of another border and painted it a neutral gray to disappear behind the plants about to be planted.  It’s a low fence–only three feet high.  But it serves as a screen to block the view of the large cement blocks that anchor a transmission tower that stands in the utility company open space. Clearly this little fence would do nothing to stop that tower from tumbling down in the case of an earthquake or prevent trespassers from leaping stepping over it. But it quietly suggests that the massive tower footings and strangers (there’s no hope for the deer) belong on the other side of the fence. Guess we have some border issues as well.

This week when I bought the rest of the new plants I purchased two especially pretty red rhododendrons as a peace offering to the neighbors. We’ll plant them on the to-be-determined border in front of their kitchen window where before there was only dirt and if we have to we’ll adjust the maple placement to make sure it’s definitely on our side of the line. We’re doing our best to make everyone happy with their lots in life.

Besides plants and dirt, here are a few other things that caught my attention this week:

Martha Stewart’s favorite clematis (and check out that garden structure to support them!)

Thinking a Calder-like mobile in the new garden could be cool.

Could these be the ultimate oatmeal raisin cookies?

Have you settled on your work uniform?

How one casting agent changed pop culture.

Happy Weekend All!



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Friday Things: The Easter Edition

Let me introduce you to my new pink dogwood tree—isn’t she a beauty? She went into the back garden yesterday along with a bunch of climbing vines and two fruit trees–a Kieffer lime and a “Panache” fig (classy, huh?)  I spent a few peaceful moments last night watering everything in, grateful to have some new living things to nurture.  Then I looked out into the open space beyond our fence to the area that technically belongs to PG&E but has plantings from a previous owner that we’ve now supplemented with some shimmering pittosporum. I laughed when I saw a large potted cactus I inherited when we bought the house now draped in leftover Christmas garland and transplanted in the field of Mexican salvia.  Welcome to the beginnings of my goofy, glorious garden.

Whether you’re celebrating Passover or Easter or Spring in all it’s glory this weekend, I hope you, too, find a quiet moment to marvel at new life and unexpected juxtapositions.

Here are a few other marvelous things that caught my attention this week.

This temple went up in flames for all the right reasons.

How to make an attractive city.

A trippy light to offset seasonal affective disorder.

Frogs at the Passover Table.

For your Easter Basket, a classy set of cards.

The story behind the annual Peeps Diorama contest.

Happy Passover and Easter Weekend All!

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Last week a landscape crew ripped out most of the tired plantings and removed all the rocks that made up an ornamental dry stream bed in the upper garden.  What’s left is a whole lot of dirt potential.

“Things gonna look worse before they look better,” said my handyman Gustavo after shoring up the back deck and removing some rotten railings. He shook his head as he surveyed the garden demolition and took measurements to rebuild a decrepit wood screen in the front.

Guess so. The yard looks pretty desolate now with just a lone dasylirion left under the old oaks. Lizards sun on the rocks and robins hunt for worms but the deer don’t even bother stopping by.  Nothing worth munching here.

But soon the soil will be prepped and the irrigation installed and then we can plant new plants. My landscaper Keeyla and I picked out some old favorites like white wisteria, burmese honeysuckle and orange roses to climb up the back decks. Plus some deer-resistant perennials like red bottlebrush and sunset-colored grevilleas to light up the front driveway. A pink dogwood will blossom outside the living room window and a maple with leaves the color of Matisse’s favorite red will signal we’re home.

Last summer my brother planted a Bearss lime for me and now I’ll add both Eureka and Meyer lemons. (After you’ve had them growing in your garden, it’s so frustrating to buy them—I know, I know, us poor Californians.) At the nursery a Kieffer lime tree looked especially pretty and I added it to the order.  You might ask who really needs two different limes growing in their garden? But I figure who wouldn’t want to explore the possibilities? Kieffer lime leaves are used in Thai cooking—not something I do all the time, but will likely attempt more with one of the featured ingredients growing in my back yard.

Back from the nursery I put together a Pinterest board showing what plants are going into the garden and felt more hopeful about what’s to come.

It helped when two umbrellas the color of my soon-to-be-planted “Westerland” roses arrived to cheer me up ’til things look better.

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Seeing Green

A designer once told me that all greens go together.  ”It’s because you see so many different shades of green in nature that your eye is comfortable with a mix of greens,” she said.  But do some greens play better with others?

“Guilford Green,” Benjamin Moore’s Color of the Year for 2015, would be a good candidate for Miss Congeniality in a paint color pageant.  Soft on the eye, with a sophisticated grey undertone, this green would be equally at home in a casual guesthouse or a formal salon.

Demure but playful, it’s the color of new growth or the shade of “white” poinsettia leaves.  Perfect for spring and wonderful in winter.

On this greenest of days–Happy St. Patrick’s Day!–feel free to mix your greens.

All photos from Benjamin Moore.

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Rug Talk with Designer Tineke Triggs

San Francisco designer Tineke Triggs knows that a well-designed rug can become the magic carpet in a room’s design.  ”It’s the first thing you see in a room and the foundation for the rest of the layers,” says Triggs who recently designed a bold new collection of contemporary area rugs for California Carpet. Let’s see how the collection evolved.

What were your early design influences and how did you decide to become a designer?

I grew up in the Bay Area.  My parents were immigrants–my Dad was from Holland and my mom from Scotland and our home was a combination of Danish Modern and Mid-Century Modern. Because they were immigrants they really emphasized pursuing studies that would lead to employment so I studied math and went into business.

However, I was always drawn to design, partly because I was dyslexic and so resorted to creative visual pursuits like painting and drawing. I’d always taken drafting and art classes on the side, which came in handy when I bought my first condo and began to decorate it.  That process taught me a lot of things including how to put together permit proposals and I eventually went on to become a certified kitchen & bath designer.

And now you’ve designed a line of carpets for California Carpet—how did that come about?

They approached me.  I’d been doing custom carpets for clients for years. Like most designers you find that what you want often doesn’t exist.

What were the inspirations for these designs?

Each carpet has a connection to something I’ve seen in my travels or developed through working with my clients but they’re all named for areas in San Francisco that inspire me. The Mission‘s star and cross pattern came about after I’d spent time in Europe and North Africa.

The Hayes also has a strong African influence and a very ethnic feel.

I always loved playing with an Etch-a-Sketch as a kid and I still gravitate towards repeated patterns and shapes.  You can see that in the diamond pattern in The Market.

The Marina goes in the other direction.  It’s highly unpredictable and unrestricted pattern is reminiscent of a paint splatter.  I designed it for a creative teen girl’s room in a recent San Francisco showcase house.

What makes this collection unique?

The rugs are very good quality and all customizable–you can have them made in any color combination and size.  They’re also affordable.  An 8 x 10 runs $3,000, which is in that sweet spot between inexpensive and expensive.

What would you pair them with?

Solid furnishings and layered accents mostly but you could easily add a geometric, floral or stripe.  Because the patterns are bolder it’s easier to layer bolder patterns.

Where do you go for design inspiration here in the Bay Area?

I’m a visual learner so I love to explore small boutique shops in the city or antique shops in the Wine Country.  I also frequent flea markets as well as art and museum exhibits.

What times and places are calling to you now?

Right now I’m very interested in Deco so I’m looking for those details wherever I can find them. I’m hoping to go to Spain this summer but I’d also like to make my way to Russia and Eastern Europe—places I’ve never been before.

How do you relax and revive?

I reboot physically by dancing, playing tennis and kickboxing.  That said, I really love being in a calm, quiet environment and my favorite thing to do is sit on the sofa with my teenage boys and cuddle.  I know that won’t be the case for long so I’m making the most of it now!


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Friday Things: The Artful Garden Edition

Plans for the outdoor spaces continue to evolve as I gather information and consult trusted experts.  One of those experts is Berkeley artist and landscape designer Keeyla Meadows.

I first met Keeyla twenty-some years ago when I was scouting gardens for a garden tour fundraiser for our kids’ grade school. Someone tipped me off to Keeyla’s garden and I drove right over and peeped over her fence. (Shameless, I know.) The incredible explosion of red and pink poppies waving in the sunlight looked like Mother Nature’s ultimate Valentine.

Over the years that effervescent field of poppies has turned into an art-filled outdoor gallery replete with sculpture, water features and artful plantings.  Keeyla’s won numerous awards, written two beautiful books on color and design and been published widely. It’s always a treat to write about her gardens. As I’ve pondered what to do with the unusual mix here—a stark modern home on the edge of wild, open space—I wondered if Keeyla might have some answers for me.

We met up this week and I’ve been dreaming about possibilities ever since.  Her  initial vision for the garden?  Take inspiration from a Calder mobile, creating blocks of color and incorporating movement to make the most of the architecture and the setting.  I love the idea. Can’t wait to show you how this plays out.

Here are a few other artful things I’ve been considering this week:

An AirBnB retirement plan.

Swirly water from a fabulous faucet.

Ruth Reichl uses ketchup and Worcestershire sauce to clean her copper pots.  Really.

Creativity exercises for those feeling blocked—or just housebound and bored.

“Horribly pleasing” smokestack photos.

This new-to-me Annie Dillard essay about an eagle and a weasel, brought to my attention by the fabulous folks on the Slate Culture Gabfest podcast.

And finally, a little peek into Jack Black’s California roots.

California Inspires Me: Jack Black (2014) from Nicolas Ménard on Vimeo.

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Kathryn Pritchett

writes about Things Elemental — where we find shelter, why we connect, what sustains us and how we strut our stuff.

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